Honoring my Ancestors through the Living

My ancestor work hasn’t exactly been going how I thought it would. In my head I had this idea of sitting in front of an altar everyday or every week, offering food, drink, incense, and speaking with my ancestors. Well, despite trying to work with a couple of different schedules, that has worked out about as well as a New Year’s Resolution. But that isn’t to say that I have just left my ancestors by the wayside. No, they, specifically my recently passed grandfather, have become a part of my daily routine.

Now before I go any further, I want to make a quick distinction. Right now my ancestor work is divided into two camps. I use the word ancestor when I am referring to the dead that are relatively recently passed, so grandparents, great-grandparents, and generally people whose names are still remembered. These also include the people who I’m not blood related to but would still consider recent ancestors. These are people from communities I am a part of, mentors, people in my fields of work, and the like. In the other camp are my disir, who I understand as my female ancestors that are connected to the Norse tradition. I work with these groups separately both because of the difference in deities, and because they have very different vibes to them.

So for this post I will be talking about how I have been honoring my ancestors, specifically my grandfather, in ways I didn’t quite expect. My grandfather’s passing has been a roller coaster of emotions. I won’t get into details, but his death was very painful for me and his affairs have been handled less than fairly. I will make another post talking about the few possessions I was able to get in a different post, but right now I want to focus on the most important way I have been honoring my grandfather.

You see, probably the most important and emotional thing my mother and I brought with us from my grandfather is his dog. My mom started taking care of him when my grandpa went back to the hospital and once he passed, he became a permanent part of our family. He’s a loving lab/golden mix named Buddy, who was never really taught to play, but loves to sit it front of you asking for pets or stand just far away from you while you are sitting down so you can give him a belly rub with your foot.

My grandpa loved his dogs. I think as soon as he could have a dog, he adopted one from a local shelter and would save another after the inevitable happened until the day he died. Adopting shelter dogs has become an important family tradition because of him. Buddy gets along with our other dogs well enough, but he also suffers from some bad separation anxiety and a terrible fear of storms and other loud noises. Buddy also, as we found out several months after my grandfather died, has cancer. It can’t be cured but we are making him as comfortable as possible for when that time comes.

This is what I mean when I say I am honoring my ancestors through the living. My grandpa’s dog was the most important part of his life. Even when my grandpa became somewhat of a hermit after he retired, he always had Buddy keeping him company. So giving this dog the best rest of his life is what I owe my grandfather and how I am honoring him. It means staying up with Buddy at 2:30 in the morning and keeping him company while a bad thunderstorm roles through and only going to bed once I can barely hear the thunder.

Honestly, it’s still too painful to have more direct contact with my grandfather. I’m not sure when I will be able to sit down in front of the little ancestor altar in our house. But I am not forgetting my ancestors. I am choosing to honor them by focusing on the living they would want me to take care of. I’m honoring my ancestors by trying to keep the peace as best as I can. Plus, when my beloved dead need to tell me something, they aren’t shy about making the message loud and clear.

 

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